Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spoofy movies that don't just suck

I can remember watching Dan Fogler in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" just before it hit Broadway.

He was annoying then, but in his defense, he was supposed to be, and he played it very well. The show itself, while more than a little too high on audience participation for my taste, was a lot of fun.

Now, however, he's making his break to the big screen in what looks like a most unfortunate way: As the star of "Balls of Fury." If this movie is somehow more than even intermittently funny, please let me know, because I'll definitely need some convincing before I even touch this one, with or without Christopher Walken.

I have nothing against the notion of spoof movies, or at least I didn't before they starting being so weak they had to put "movie" in the title just in case anybody missed the thoroughly obvious point (as my own petty protest for having been dragged to the absolutely unfunny "Date Movie," none of those flicks will be included in the list that follows.)

In honor (or dishonor, I guess) of Dan Fogler's fairly auspicious movie debut, here are 10 spoofy movies (and I do admittedly use the term more than a little loosely) that still manage to make me laugh. Please feel free to add any I've missed.

1. Blazing Saddles
It was hard to pick just one Mel Brooks movie (and probably unfair to do so), but for me his work was never funnier than in this sendup of Westerns. Perhaps it was Richard Pryor's contribution to writing the script that just made this the most politically incorrect of Brooks' flicks, and one in which everyone is a target for ridicule.

2. Airplane!
No matter how many of those "movie" movies they inflict on the masses (yes, there is a "Scary Movie 5" in the works), you have to give props to Jim Abrahams and David Zucker. Shirley you don't doubt this spoof of disaster movies is simply one of the funniest movies ever made.

3. Top Secret
Zucker and Abrahams again, I concede, but when I was 14 years old I thought this was the funniest movie around. I was clearly wrong, but I do miss the days when Val Kilmer was a funny guy, particularly here and in "Tombstone."

4. Our Man Flint
In many ways this spoof starring James Coburn as a sendup of James Bond was an omen of what would later go wrong with some Bond movies that just lost their way. Coburn, however, is very funny, and the "scientific" weapons they come up with are worth the price of admission by themselves.

5. Spinal Tap!
It's hard to believe now that Rob Reiner was ever this funny (in his defense, I did watch "Dave" on a recent Saturday morning, and if you can stomach it's heavyhanded politics, that was a much better flick than I remembered it being at the time.) If this list were in any kind of logical order, this mocku-rockumentary would be on top.

6. Psycho Beach Party
I concede that the supremely silly work of Charles Busch is definitely not for everyone, but I like it, and this is my list. This 2000 flick riffs on both Gidget and slasher films, and you get Nicholas Brendon and Amy Adams to boot.

7. Hollywood Shuffle
What in the world ever happened to Robert Townsend? I can't remember seeing him in anything since his fairly dreadful sitcom "The Parent 'Hood," but very few people have made funnier debuts that had more to say than this flick (and I'd certainly put out a little cash for a 20th anniversary edition on DVD, if anyone's listening.)

8. Life of Brian
If you're gonna spoof on anyone, why not start at the top. The Pythons' riff on Jesus, while being very funny, is not nearly as blasphemous as many might think, and actually surpisingly sweet. I first watched it, after all, at an Episcopal youth group meeting, so just how sacreligious can it really be?

9. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
If you like film noir (and if you don't, why in the world not?), you'll probably have a soft spot for this old parody starring Steve Martin and directed by Carl Reiner. It's not quite as funny as it should be, but it's still fun to see old favorites like Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck pop up throughout.

10. Best In Show
Christopher Guest's movies works best when you can either like or identify with the people in the flick, as you can with this dead-on shot at dog shows. The laughs fly funnier in "Waiting for Guffman," but this is still my favorite of his works.

And there you have it. As I said, if you see "Balls of Fury" and enjoy it, please let me know, and feel free to add any great spoofs I have snubbed (shirley there are many.) Peace out.


Nell Minow said...

Don't call me Shirley!

Superb list. Of course the list of failed spoofs is far longer, starting with just about everything from the "Scary Movie" people, who seem to think that referring to something is the same thing as making a joke about it.

Reel Fanatic said...

That's definitely true, Nell ... I like the effort that Anna Faris and Regina Hall put into trying to be funny in the "Scary Movie" flicks, but they just get less and less funny as they go on

Anonymous said...

I'm partial to anything by Mel Brooks. For me, Young Frankenstein is up there w/ Saddles.

I also like the Carl Reiner spoof Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. "Reinemachefrau! It means she could be my cleaning woman."

jeremy said...

I'd just like to say that Balls of Fury might not suck. Tom Lennon did the screenplay with "Night at the Museum"'s Ben Garant and there's some great cameo/supporting players.
Also, to Nell, I'd like to point out that Scary Movie 3 and 4 were helmed by the same man who directed the movie you quote at the top of your comment. Mr. Zucker, in my opinion, rescued that crappy franchise when he wrested it from the Wayans bros. paws and put the very funny Jim Abrahams as scribe. (Number 4, for my money is the funniest--but still, we're talking about movies whose demographic includes 12 year-old boys and 26 year-old paint huffers).
Anyway, those movies, in general don't do it for me--mainly because I was stationed off the coast of Drambuie during the war.

Reel Fanatic said...

I normally trust those two guys, Jeremy, but I just don't know with this one .. It just looks so stupid that I'll have to wait for some word-of-mouth to get me interested

Mercurie said...

I think I'd add to that list Naked Gun. I didn't care much for the sequels, but the first one was hilarious.

Nell Minow said...

You're right, Jeremy. Zucker was one of the people behind the sublime "Airplane!" I am also a big fan of his "Ruthless People," But he is also responsible for the unforgivably awful "My Boss's Daughter." Even my all-time favorite director, Billy Wilder, produced some clunkers. As they say with mutual funds, "past performance is no guarantee of future performance."

Eric said...

Dead men Don't wear plaid was absolutly brilliant IMHO
As for others.
And God Spoke
Both great spoofs on the Business.
I actually knew a guy that charged actors to audition.
Blazing Saddles. I saw that in the theater when It came out. I think I was a Senior in high school at the time. It broke so many of the things you dont do conventions up to that time that I remember being awe struck.
The bean scene alone was worth the price of admission for a 17 year old kid.

Reel Fanatic said...

The first Naked Gun almost made the cut, Mercurie, but due mostly to time I had to keep it to the round number of 10 ... and I always love it when people point out a movie I've missed, Eric, as you did with "And God Spoke," which I'll have to check out whenever I get the chance

Sterfish said...

I actually really enjoyed the first Scary Movie but they did get progressively worse.

I have three movies I'd add to the list: Don't Be A Menace..., I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and Fear Of A Black Hat.

Don't Be A Menace is the funniest movie to star Shawn and Marlon Wayans. There are a lot of good riffs on hood movies (Bernie Mac's rant against "black" stuff always gets me).

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka is still pretty funny. I always loved the scenes where they blatantly replaced the mother with a stunt man to have her beating up bad guys.

Fear Of A Black Hat is the best film parodying hip-hop period. It owes a lot to Spinal Tap with its mockumentary style but it's a spot on spoof of early-mid 1990's hip-hop. Some of it (such as the ridiculous ways the group tries to justify its music) is still relevant.

Chris said...

People already mentioned the two I'd throw out there: Naked Gun and Fear of a Black Hat. By the way, I did see Balls of Fury and your instincts are correct on that one.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the warning, Chris ... I'm afraid this will make two weeks in a row when I don't see any new theatrical releases, which would be a real shame ... And those are all great suggestions, Sterfish ... I'm Gonna Git You Sucka just barely missed making my cut, but I have confess that I had forgotten all about the simply brilliant Fear of a Black Hat

Neel Mehta said...

Balls of Fury reviewed here. I won't lie; it is occasionally funny. But ultimately it's a bit embarrassing.

No one else will say it, so thanks for the Psycho Beach Party love.

And while I like Rob Reiner (and could mention a handful of films in his defense), he had nothing to do with Dave, an Ivan Reitman film written by Gary Ross.

Hannah said...

Isn't Hot Fuzz a spoof and an homage? Either way it is genius.
I agree about Gonna Git You Sucka...also a classic.
My grandmother loves Blazing Saddles. She said the first time it played in movie theaters, you didn't hear half the jokes because people were laughing so loud and hard. Literally rolling in the aisles was the scene she said.

Marina said...

Excellent, excellent list though for me, Airplane trumps Blazing Saddles!

Reel Fanatic said...

It certainly does at that, Hannah ... I love Hot Fuzz unconditionally, so it definitely deserves the recognition .. And thanks for correcting me, Neel ... Though it was "Dave" I was watching, I think in my early-morning writing mode I got it confused with "The American President," which, I believe, is a Reiner movie (geez, I hope I'm not wrong again!)

Invisible Lizard said...

I don't know what it is about my brain. I fancy myself a fairly cultured guy, but I just love them spoof movies. Even the bad ones make me chuckle, but the good ones (and your list is a great start) I'll watch over and over again.

Personally, I'd put Young Frankenstein over Blazing Saddles (although I'm a Mel Brooks nut and I love all of his movies, even the really bad ones) and Holy Grail over Brian (again, close call). I wouldn't include Reiner and Guest's mockumentaries in this list because mockumentaries are something slightly different than spoofs, but then again, it's not my list.

One of my favorites (one of the good ones, I hope someone will agree) is Fatal Instinct. I've seen that one a dozen times, if not more. And Kung Fu Hustle, definitely.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm not sure I can take Fatal Instinct, Mr. Lizard, but I'll definitely take Kung Fu Hustle .. And I hope I never get too sophisticated (and I'm sure I won't) to laugh at good spoofs, but I fear they are quickly becoming a dying art

Chalupa said...

What about Bullworth or Wag the Dog? I'm also kinda partial to Austin Powers. Not that I can take to much of it, but Mike Meyers just makes me laugh.

Reel Fanatic said...

I didn't care much for Wag the Dog, Chalupa .. the whole thing just seemed awfully forced to me ... Bulworth, however, is definitely a worthy suggestion, if for no other reason than Beatty is just insanely funny

Jonathan said...

Great list. I would definately stick Naked Gun or Kentucky Fried Movie in there over Top Secret if you have to have two of Zucker/Abrams on the list. Also, it would be hard for me to leave off either Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein. Also, I'm glad out of all the Guest movies you picked Best in Show (That's always been my fave).

And this will be rather nitpicky, but you mentioned "Dave" (Which is not a bad film as you said). However, that was directed by Ivan Reitman and not Rob Reiner. Just thought I would mention it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have no problem at all with people correcting me, Jonathan, as long as, like you, they do so politely! I do tend to make too many little mistakes

Divinity said...

The Big Hit
Wahlberg has never made me laugh as much since. Everyone was perfectly cast from Avery Brooks as the big boss to Danny Smith as the Video Store Kid. And Lou Diamond Phillips has facial expressions made for parody.

Reel Fanatic said...

The Big Hit was indeed a movie that I didn't bother to see on the big screen, but caught on DVD and learned just how foolish I was to skip it .. that's one seriously funny flick

Divinity said...

Has anyone added the first Austin Powers? The bf just mentioned it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can take one Austin Powers, Divinity, but that's it .. No. 1 was indeed very funny, but after that the joke got old pretty fast for me

Madhat said...

How can you forget Spaceballs in this list??

Reel Fanatic said...

You're right to call me out on that, madhat, but I forced myself to pick only Mel Brooks flick so I could spread the love

Anonymous said...

Murder by Death should rank as one of the funniest spoofs. It's in my top ten for sure.

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